Interview with Australian Jane Gundogan author of Salep and Ginger

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Have you read author Jane Gundogan's sizzling romp Salep and Ginger?
Jane Gundogan in Istanbul

I’m excited to share my interview with Jane Gundogan. Jane Gundogan is an author and in her own words, “also a part-time comedian (in her own mind), half-assed blogger and a totally committed vinophile”. Most importantly, she’s the person behind Salep and Ginger, a novel set in Turkey (see my review here) and the only guidebook to Mersin written in English. When not attempting to write the follow-up Jane Gundogan tells me she can usually be found either watching a Turkish dizi or relaxing on her terrace alongside her very own Turk watching the sun go down with a slightly chilled, full-bodied glass (or bottle) of Cab Sav. Apparently the wine also helps her morph into a Madonna-esque power ballad diva although this has never been officially verified. Maybe that’s for the best. For now, let’s see what she had to say.

Why did you first come to Turkey?

It was the 31st December 1999 and, thanks to the Y2K bug, everyone was waiting for the world to implode. Me? I was sitting in a gutter in Sydney watching the fireworks with friends, when I had an epiphany. It was a new millennium and it was kind of a significant one, wasn’t it? 2000 years ago – or thereabouts – “a child was born”. Obviously many children were born but this one was kind of important. And as I sat drowning my sorrows I decided that I needed to reconsider precisely what I was doing with my life as not only was I in a craptastic relationship that had been circling the bowl for some time, I was also about to turn 30. So I decided to run away from my troubles and backpack around the world. I arrived in Bodrum, Turkey in July 2000 and, yeah, I guess it really did change my life.

With Jane Gundogan in Mersin

How did you end up living in Mersin?

I met The Turk on my first night in Bodrum. I hated him. Truly. I thought he was some kind of major jerk and made a point to give him a very wide berth. A year later I found myself in Turkey again and I actually bumped into him on the street. Kismet? Meant to be? Who knows but we fell in love (or something) and soon after our daughter was born. Fast forward twelve years, we were both working long hours in Sydney, we never saw each other or our daughter. Finally, her health began to suffer (she was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata). We realized that living in Sydney with its disconnected lifestyle and the stress it was putting on her was unhealthy and so, after threatening to do so for many years, we packed up our lives and our two fur-babies and moved to Mersin. Some might say it was a pretty extreme sea change, but it was definitely the right decision for us as a family.

Tell us a bit about your daily life in Turkey. What makes it different from life in Australia?

Chalk and cheese, baby. Sydney was all about earning enough money just to pay the bills. Here, the Turkish way of life is a little slower and we have time to sit back and enjoy what we have made for ourselves.

Jane Gundogan author learning to make salca, Turkish tomato paste.
Jane Gundogan as the gelin

The day to day of it all has changed over the years though. When we first moved here I was the poster-child of a gelin, mucking in and really getting into the Turkish way of life, learning to cook and working on the farm, but my inability to learn the language held me back. It also meant that making friends in the village was difficult and I became incredibly lonely. Don’t get me wrong I loved spending time with my Turkish family but I also needed my own people (you can read that as someone to get drunk with). Seven years on and my Turkish is still absolute rubbish but I have a pretty good balance between the Turkish and the yabancı way of life.

Many foreigners who’ve lived outside their country of birth for a long time decide to write travel stories or memoirs. What made you decide to write a novel?

I originally began my blog Janey in Mersin to keep in touch with my friends back in Sydney. I never held anything back. Good times and bad, it was there. I didn’t see any point in writing a memoir because I’d been doing it for years anyway. I do love a good rom-com though and I was already living in Turkey so it made sense that whatever I wrote had to be about falling in love and it had to take place in Turkey.

I’m sure you’ve had many experiences in Turkey – was it difficult to pick out the stories and experiences you’ve had and decide what you wanted to use to create the fictional world of Salep and Ginger?

Jane Gundogan in Sultanahmet, Istanbul

You’ve probably already guessed that I set most of Ginger’s time in Istanbul in Sultanahmet. I’ve been there so many times over the years and I wanted it to be immediately recognizable to the readers. Even Aydin’s family restaurant is based on a real restaurant. It’s called “Omar’s” and I’ve visited it many times. I’m currently working on book two in the Ginger series, tentatively called “Pomegranates and Olive”. This time it’s set in Bodrum, where I’ve spent many summer holidays, and yes, both Ginger and Aydin make an appearance in this one as well.

In setting your book in Turkey, did you ever feel that there was a challenge writing about another culture that wasn’t your own? For instance, were you worried about offending Turks? Of getting things wrong?

The first draft of Salep And Ginger was much different to the story that you have read. It was a little darker and it didn’t paint a great picture of certain aspects of Turkish life for a foreign woman. My editor was ruthless though and it was exactly what I needed to give Ginger the “happily ever after” that she deserved.

How would you categorise Salep and Ginger? Is it erotica? Chick lit? Something else?

I don’t think its erotica (although it was called soft porn by one social media fuddy-duddy, which I really appreciated as the book shot back into the top 30 on Amazon UK). I think it falls into the category of chick lit but with a sexy twist.

What do you think was the most difficult part of writing Salep and Ginger? For people interested in writing a novel, do you have any advice? What would you have done differently in the writing process if you could go back?

Don't wait! Get your copy of Salep and Giger today

For me the most difficult part wasn’t actually writing Salep And Ginger it was having the confidence to publish it. And marketing? Ugh! Marketing is the absolute worst! But to everyone who has ever dreamed of writing a book, anyone who has ever thought they couldn’t do it, didn’t know how to, or didn’t think they were good enough, Salep And Ginger is proof that you can do it. Never let self-doubt stand in the way of your dreams.

What was your biggest fear about sharing this book with the world? How do you feel about it now?

No one likes a bad review so the idea that someone would hate what I wrote haunted me for a long time before I hit publish. Now that Salep And Ginger is out there I realize that I can’t and won’t make everyone happy so I really shouldn’t care what other people think.

And lastly, the question I’m sure everyone is dying to ask – how much of Ginger is actually Jane Gundogan?

I’m super sarcastic, so my sarcasm often comes out through my characters. The swearing and Ginger’s love of all things alcoholic is also all me. The rest? Not so much. And there is definitely none of my Turk in Aydin. He is all fantasy!

Having already read and loved Salep and Ginger, I won’t spoil it for you by telling you how it ends. Just get your copy of Salep and Ginger as an ebook or in paperback and start reading today. If you’re looking for a little bit of spice in your life, oh alright, a lot, you won’t be disappointed. Click here for a full list of books by Jane Gundogan.


After interviewing Jane Gundogan we’ve become firm friends as well as writing buddies so I’m very pleased to be able to share her 3 day guide to Mersin, written specially for Inside Out In Istanbul.

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  1. Great to read this Lisa. I read Salep and Ginger last year. I absolutely loved it and couldn’t put it down. It was the title that drew me as I love Ginger, not sure about the Salep yet. Maybe I need try some in Istanbul, sometime. Great to read comments from Jane and see her photo.
    Thank you.

    1. It’s lovely. I really enjoyed Jane’s book too. She has a real way with words and a vivid imagination (or a very spicy private life!). You have to drink salep in Istanbul in winter.

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